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Wonka ★★★★



Directed: Paul King

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins, Olivia Colman, Rowan Atkinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Matt Lucas, Jim Carter, Calah Lane, Paterson Joseph, Mathew Baynton

Released: 8th December 2023

The countdown to Christmas radiates fun-filled magic within us each year. We anticipate getting out our trees, showing off the decorations, and even attempting to go to as many markets as possible to get into the festive spirit. Unsurprisingly, chocolate plays a big part in the fun. From advent calendars on the 1st of December to countless hot chocolates, it’s a tradition that doesn’t feel like one but continues to fill us with small amounts of joy. As young children, we would sneak off those Cadbury chocolate baubles and tell little fibs to our parents about their whereabouts – it’s a sweet treat that can bring back fond memories. So, it makes perfect sense that Paul King’s Wonka debuted during this period of family traditions. It not only entices adults to check back into their childhoods but invites a new generation to delve into the magical delights of Willy Wonka.

Before Charlie receives his golden ticket, the film explores Wonka’s journey to success and the trials and tribulations of wanting to be the world’s artistic chocolate maker. Arriving on the scene singing enthusiastically ‘Hat Full of Dreams’, Wonka comes face to face with his competitors. The villainous chocolate mafia Slugworth, Prodnose and Fickelgruber attempt to block him from selling his spellbinding chocolates. He must tackle the difficulty of racing back and forth between Mrs Scrubbit’s prison-link basement laundry and getting his creations an audience with the help of his new inmates, The Scrubbers.

In British culture, Willy Wonka is a much-loved figure in literature. We have seen a couple of page-to-screen adaptations created by Roald Dahl for his children’s book Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, released in 1971, became a family favourite mainly due to Gene Wilder’s utterly sweet yet secretly sour character portrayal. Over three decades on, Tim Burton’s take allowed a fresh audience to fall in love with the classic, with Johnny Depp adding his modern twist to Wonka. Timothee Chalamet must have felt the pressure from the moment his casting was announced in 2021. Still, as Wonka Chalamet transforms and instantly becomes the character – it’s almost as if he was born to play the chocolatier. From his playfulness with the dialogue to his surprisingly great voice during the film’s musical number, there is no doubt that Chalamet is proving Hollywood’s most prolific name.

Having previously helmed both Paddington films, Paul King has become a national treasure. Most will fall hopelessly in love with Wonka and its candy charm, but it’s hard not to feel a sense of apprehensiveness going into the film. In the modern era of filmmaking, the term ‘original’ feels like it is dying out at times. With films getting remade more often than not, it’s easy to feel some negativity going into a first watch of the film. How can you follow up or adapt a movie and not ruin it? Creating a film without imagination is easy, but Wonka is no remake or a lousy remediation of the character’s arc. While previously, the protagonist was often captured as a sweet man who wore his heart on his sleeve; he has a darker side than meets the eye. King and Simon Farnaby’s screenplay allows audiences to explore the passion and determination of a young and heartfelt individual before stardom.

King knows how to turn a British classic tale into a film that provides audiences with a warm hug. Wonka is a film with a strong beating heart that transports us back to our childhoods and when we first witnessed the magic of the previous portrayals of Willy Wonka. It’s a tasty treat that feels like it will become an instant festive classic.

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